Police make drug arrests while investigating fire that destroyed - FOX Carolina 21

Police make drug arrests while investigating fire that destroyed Gaffney church sanctuary

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Crews battle massive fire at Gaffney church (FOX Carolina/ 11/23/17) Crews battle massive fire at Gaffney church (FOX Carolina/ 11/23/17)
Crews battle massive fire at Gaffney church (FOX Carolina/ 11/23/17) Crews battle massive fire at Gaffney church (FOX Carolina/ 11/23/17)
Crews battle massive fire at Gaffney church (FOX Carolina/ 11/23/17) Crews battle massive fire at Gaffney church (FOX Carolina/ 11/23/17)
The old sanctuary was destroyed by the fire (FOX Carolina/ Nov. 24, 2017) The old sanctuary was destroyed by the fire (FOX Carolina/ Nov. 24, 2017)
Police identified the suspects as Lamont Dawkins, Roland Foster, and Jeffrey Miller. (Source: CCSO) Police identified the suspects as Lamont Dawkins, Roland Foster, and Jeffrey Miller. (Source: CCSO)
GAFFNEY, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Gaffney police said officers investigating a fire that destroyed part of a Gaffney church arrested three people on drug-related charges.

The fire occurred at Bethel Baptist Church at 218 W Drive L M Rosemond Lane in Gaffney on November 23.

No one was inside the church at the time, and no injuries were reported.

Four fire stations from Gaffney responded to the scene. Six stations in all, assisted.

Chief Caggiano with the Gaffney Fire Department said they were first called about smoke coming from the building, wires down and transformers blowing out.

Caggiano said crews noticed heavy smoke upon arrival and then saw flames shooting from the old sanctuary of the church, which had been there since before the 1950's. He said the old sanctuary and old education wing was a complete loss. The area that burned was no longer in use. The pastor said it's still heartbreaking to see the old building in that condition. Dr. J.W. Sanders Junior said he grew up in the church, some of his earliest memories were inside the old sanctuary. 

"We would help clean up, my parents did that," Sanders Junior. "We know everyone, it means the world to us. I went to kindergarten here, we were the first black kindergarten in the community ever."

Sanders said he was taught from an early age that the sanctuary was something to be proud of, something to take care. The inside of that historic building has now turned to ash, his late father's memorabilia destroyed as flames ripped through the building. 

"In my daddy's office was an old newspaper up in a frame and that's gone now too," Sanders said.  

The gym, new sanctuary, senior living and daycare center had water damage, but no fire damage, and will be able to be salvaged.

Caggiano said the congregation will be able to meet for church Sunday in the new sanctuary.

At this time, there is no official word on what may have started the fire.

SLED is assisting with the investigation because it involves a church.

SLED agents and firefighters were on the scene investigating and taking photos Friday morning, trying to determine a cause.

Officials said the investigation may take days to complete. 

While Gaffney police officers were going door-to-door in the neighborhood surrounding the church looking for leads in the fire investigation, a spokesman for the department said the officers smelled marijuana coming from one house. 

The officers obtained a warrant and arrested three suspects for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Police identified the suspects as Lamont Dawkins, Roland Foster, and Jeffrey Miller.

Stay with FOX Carolina for the latest.

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